Final Report of my SPA Leadership Project

Claim and Research Question:

My research question is “What are the factors impacting the number of international students that study a university in America?”. All students around the world deserve the same right and opportunity to study at the best universities. Hence, each student should have the same conditions to study in regardless of their financial status, nationality or culture. With my research question, I believe I can inform my audience about various conditions and difficulties that international students in the USA face. I also believe I can point out the importance of international students in US universities.

Executive Summary:

My research about the factors affecting the number of international students showed that there are specific issues that international students are facing in early stages of their university life in the USA. These main factors are; culture shock, financial difficulties, visa problems and social interaction. My research showed me that number of international students in the USA isn’t declining but the number is increasing at a slower speed due to these influences. Based on my research, it is found that in the fall semester of 2016, the number of international student enrollment decreased by 3.3% and in the fall of 2017, that number grew to 6.9% (Batalova, J. Z., Jeanne Batalova Jie Zong and Jeanne, 2018). As a result of this data, it is clearly seen that the universities or the government should pay more attention to international student life in the US. Diving deeper into this topic, I found out that there are many offices in universities that focus on improving the life of international students by simply talking with them or helping the, to become more socially involved (Study in the USA, 2020). Additionally, research showed that international students are not only crucial for the economy of the USA, but also a key factor in diversity of the university campus (Wu, H., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. 2015). Because of this, international student environment should be supported and improved. Overall, even though universities started to pay more attention to international students, they need to keep this effort up until internationals feel equally as citizen students.


The problem has always been present to international students. This is mainly because no matter how exciting studying in the US is, the challenge of adaptation to a new country overweighs that. Being present in an entirely new community is always challenging, and the resources that can help you needs to be informed to international students, especially to freshmen. International students have always brought a very big value for both the universities and the US economy. Without international students attending US universities, the US economy would be affected significantly (Hegarty, N. 2014) as according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contributed more than $46 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019 (Monsen, L. 2020). In addition, it was quoted that “International students enrich the cultural diversity of campuses with their home culture and ethnic experiences” (Wu, H., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. 2015). This information clearly shows the importance of international students.

Key Stakeholders:

International Students in the USA: This includes every international student in the USA. No matter of their gender, identity or race, all international students studying in America are included.

International High Schoolers that plan to Study in the USA and their parents: All senior, junior, sophomore or even freshman that is an international student and plans to study in the USA. Also, it includes the parents of each student.

International Admissions or International Student Service Offices in the US universities: People working to help international students to have an easier transition from high school to college or individuals who read and admit the student enrollment forms and applications.

NAFSA: People that deal with international student visa applications.

Fall Semester Progress

-In addition to reading many primary and secondary source articles, I have communicated with international students all round the US. I have also talked to several international alumni who studied in US colleges, including one person from American University. My goal was to find out the main problems that international students were facing.

-I learned that there are 4 major categories of challenges that international students experience when they arrive in the USA. These are “cultural differences, language-barrier, being far away from family and social interaction to meet new friends”.
-After doing a more detailed research, I found out that this issue is more significant than I thought as the total number of undergraduate international students dropped by 2.4% in 2019 compared to the number in 2018.


Overall Project

-I prepared a questionnaire based on the 4 major challenges that I have learned in the last semester and sent out to international students involved.

-12 international students at American University, 2 graduate international students working as researchers at Harvard University, and 1 international AU alumni were involved.

-10 out of 15 participation counted as successful.

-Then, I made a summary of the results and send it to a worker that I communicated before in the ISSS Office at AU since they oversee the international students at AU.
-Based on the questionnaire responses, the most crucial problem was labelled as the “cultural differences”.
-ISSS will observe this and take the appropriate action accordingly.